Photo by Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)

Amazon has consistently shaken up the retail industry and taken the world by surprise. On February 2, 2021 the company had an entirely different kind of surprise in store when CEO Jeff Bezos announced he would be stepping down. Bezos is planning to transition to Executive Chairman in the third quarter of the year and he has selected Andy Jassy to take over as CEO. The shocking announcement has left a copious amount of questions in its wake. Amazon was already a leader in the retail space before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however national lockdowns caused sales to surge. If Amazon wasn’t the crown jewel of retail before, they have certainly made their case. With Amazon riding so high, many are wondering why Bezos is stepping away. What plans does he have for his other ventures? What will happen to Amazon without him at the helm?

In an email to his employees Bezos outlined that he wants time to focus on his other projects including the Day 1 Fund, The Washington Post, and Blue Origin among others. Bezos has also said that his transition has nothing to do with retirement and he remains committed to moving forward while being a part of Amazon. It is likely that his aerospace company Blue Origin could receive the bulk of his undivided attention as he called it his most important work in 2018. Blue Origin has plans to send its first passengers into space by April and their ambitious timelines may be possible with Bezos assuming full control. For a long time he has had an interest in space that has largely been overshadowed by his famous rival Elon Musk and SpaceX. If Bezos brings his Amazon operational expertise and innovation to Blue Origin, then this could be the cheapest way to visit the moon by the end of the decade.

For Amazon, the future still looks bright with a new CEO. Jassy has been with the company since 1997, was part of adding music to their retail offering, and pioneered Amazon Web Services. Jassy is being given the reins of a company at the height of its power and there is no indication of slowing down. The company had a net income of $7.2 billion for the fourth quarter of 2020 and they essentially controlled the start of the holiday shopping season by pushing their Amazon Prime Day sales event to October. The company will likely continue to innovate as more companies attempt to copy their blueprint to recover from the pandemic.

His transition will also serve as a way to transform his public perception away from being the leader of Amazon. He will be able to focus on his more philanthropic and his commitment to COVID-19 research.  The news of a departing CEO can often spell trouble for a company, however in this case it may mean the opposite. Amazon will be able to survive without its creator and Bezos has other industries to disrupt. Jeff Bezos is beginning the second act to a career that has already been more impressive than most CEOs can strive for. Whatever happens next will be exciting and worth watching.